Friday night, San Luis Obispo’s married adult community filed into the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center. After sampling wine and getting the scoop on whose son goes to which college, they filled the auditorium, creating a nearly perfect pattern in the rows of seats: man, woman, man with a cowboy hat, woman, man, woman.
Blue and purple spotlights illuminated the house.
After that, I can’t speak to how well date night generally went for everyone — but the stand-up show held its ground.
First up to bat was Chuck Martin. You might recognize his name from the credits screen of “Arrested Development”, for which he produced and wrote.
The skinny, well-dressed man walked onto the stage, mic in hand. He moved back and forth, shiny shoes dipping and gliding over the stage floor. Martin’s gray blazer and glasses gave him a nearly complete look; he has a face that looks like it should have a mustache but doesn’t.
His performance style was very observational, rehearsed and fast-paced. Martin’s frantic manner of spattered phrases gave the impression that he was making an excuse or explaining a surprise. His sudden shifts in topic felt a little abrupt at times, but he’s nearly mastered the neurotic niche.
“You know what I love to hate is that Papa John’s,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, that Papa John’s guy, I just want to smack that guy in the face. He’s so smug! Sitting on that little stool, ‘Nobody does what Papa John’s does.’ Really? Nobody else made a shitty pizza delivery company? Got the market cornered on that, do you, Papa?”
After a successful 20 minutes, Martin introduced the show’s main act, Kathleen Madigan. She took her place behind the mic stand.
Madigan can best be described as your funny aunt, her style largely relying on accessible anecdotes. Madigan comes from a large, chaotic, Midwestern family. Her mom jeans and lovable sarcasm fit just right over stories of retirement homes and the antics of yokels in the Midwest.
For the adult, upper-middle class audience, Madigan’s show hit the nail on the head. She kept the focus on anything they could laugh at without having to be confronted with a mirror. It was safe.
“I mean, I don’t think I drink a lot compared to other Irish people,” she said. “What’s your bar? Who’re you hanging out with? About once a year if I can, my only vacation is I go to Ireland. I love it there. I can re-adjust my priorities; I feel like a Type-A go-getter. Almost a triathlete.”
When Madigan did speak about the controversial, she managed to do so without putting a bitter taste in any mouths. Malaysia Flight 370 and Bill Cosby hit the audience without incident.
“There’s one thing if the village idiot says something,” she said. “But when the entire village is like ‘uh-uh,’ you know something is up. It’s a weird thing, you want to have sex with people who are unconscious, I don’t even understand the fun in that. It’s exhausting! Have you ever tried to put a drunk in pajamas? How is that sexy?”
Both comedians had successful shows because their content provided a slightly spicy level of raunchiness that never insulted the relatively conservative adult audience. Everyone came for a good time and nobody got hurt.
Outside of the show hall, San Luis Obispo resident Kay Miller stood among the buzzing crowd of pleased audience members who’d just left the performance.
“Madigan played up things that struck her as funny,” Miller said, “And then she made this whole thing out of it. If it happened to us, we probably wouldn’t even think it was that funny.”